NYTimes has published a front page article by Duffy Wilson titled "Patent Woes Threaten Drug Firms." The article begins with a case study of Pfizer whose Lipitor money-stream ($10 billion-per-year) will be severely reduced when its patent expires. Of Course, Pfizer is not alone, the article cites ten blockbuster drugs with patents expiring in 2011 – those ten have a combined annual revenue of over $50 billion. The problem for big-pharma is that their years of record profits have not translated into a replacement line of blockbuster drugs and the drug companies have cut more than 100,000 jobs in the past two years.
Wilson writes "consumers should see a financial benefit as lower-cost generics replace the expensive elite drugs, but may suffer in the long term if companies reduce research and do not produce new drugs that meet the public's needs." Already, 75% of prescriptions are to generic drugs, and patented drug prices are under severe pressure from health insurers.
Of course, Pfizer is not an overly sympathetic entity. "In 2009, Pfizer paid the largest criminal fine in the nation's history as part of a $2.3 billion settlement over marketing drugs for unapproved uses."